December 28, 1997 – BBC World Service – Newshour – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
December 28, 1997 – Busy day as 1997 rapidly comes to a close. Bird Flu was sweeping Hong Kong and the culprit was found to be its Poultry population. So the authorities ordered the mass slaughter of some 1 million chickens, ducks and turkeys in an attempt to put an end or at least bring down the number of human cases coming down with the virus. The 1997 Hong Kong outbreak of an avian influenzalike virus, with 18 proven human cases, many severe or fatal, highlighted the challenges of novel influenza viruses. Lessons from this episode can improve international and national planning for influenza pandemics in seven areas: expanded international commitment to first responses to pandemic threats; surveillance for influenza in key densely populated areas with large live-animal markets; new, economical diagnostic tests not based on eggs; contingency procedures for diagnostic work with highly pathogenic viruses where biocontainment laboratories do not exist; ability of health facilities in developing nations to communicate electronically, nationally and internationally; licenses for new vaccine production methods; and improved equity in supply of pharmaceutical products, as well as availability of basic health services, during a global influenza crisis. The Hong Kong epidemic also underscores the need for national committees and country-specific pandemic plans.
In other news – an Egyptian Court upheld the ban on Female Genital Mutilation, the genital cutting of girls and women, a ritual widely practiced in Africa.
The decision by the supreme administrative court marked the culmination of several years of debate in Egypt between Government officials and some Islamic conservatives, who contended that the practice they called female circumcision was a cultural or religious issue, and not a matter for government or the courts.
This day’s ruling overturned a lower court decision challenging the ban that was imposed by the Egyptian Health Ministry in 1996. The ruling cannot be appealed. Violations carry a three-year jail sentence.
And in Kenya: Multi-party elections were getting ready to take place. They were the second since the advent of the “democracy experiment which started with the “democracy wave” starting in the mid-1990s. The elections, save any last minute issues, were ready to take place between December 29th and January 5th.
And that’s a small slice of this half-hour extract of the BBC World Service program Newshour for December 28, 1997.